West central Michigan field crop update – June 21, 2019

Progress is generally slow with a great deal of variability in crop condition and growth.

Flooded alfalfa field
Excessive rainfall this spring has drowned out areas of many alfalfa fields. Photo by Fred Springborn, MSU Extension.


Many soils in west central Michigan remain wet with sporadic opportunities to get work done. The well drained soils that have been suitable for tillage and planting are planted. Limited progress has been made on the heavier soils and any soil with poor drainage. For many crops, the lack of heat remains a big concern as crops are developing slowly. Low air temperatures for the week have been in the 40s and low 50s.

Soil temperature remain quite cool with lows still dipping down into the 50s. It is also notable that day length begins to get shorter from this point in June, meaning less potential sunshine for photosynthesis.


Corn planting is continuing on a very limited basis for grain production; most of the corn being planted this week is intended for silage. We have a significant amount of prevented plant acres in the region with generally less as you go north and more as you go to south. The most advanced fields are V7 with growth stages primarily V3 to V5. Stands are variable, many fields are showing signs of stress from excess water and nutrient issues, primarily nitrogen deficiency.

Soybeans are just over half planted overall with some areas further ahead in planting progress than others. A few fields have their first fully expanded trifoliate, and many are just emerging. The final plant date for producers with crop insurance was June 15 with the late planting period continuing into the first few days of July. Planting will continue for at least a week, weather permitting. If you are considering planting soybean on prevented plant corn acres, consider the impact on diseases and nematodes if those acres were soybeans in 2018.

Dry bean planting moved forward for a couple days this week, but we still have far less than half the crop planted. The next seven days will be critical, as we are beginning to run late for this crop as well. We would normally be well over half finished at this point. Dry beans need to be planted into warm, moist soils to promote rapid emergence and avoid root rot infection.

Winter wheat crop condition is mixed with very few fields rated excellent. Many fields planted in mid to late October have reduced tiller and head counts due to the cool fall temperatures and late warm up this spring limiting tillering. Flowering is mostly complete with just a few fields just entering this growth stage.

Oats are beginning to head out with many fields showing signs of nitrogen deficiency. As in many cases, the nitrogen was lost due to leaching from the excessive rainfall.

Alfalfa and other forage crops are a growing concern. While we did not see the widespread winterkill that was experienced by some areas of the Midwest, it is an issue in some areas. The primary concern now is the late harvest of first cutting, as weather conditions have not allowed drying in the field. This delay in harvest will reduce the number of cutting growers will be able to make this season. In addition, some fields are losing significant areas due to flooding.

The date in which cover crops can be harvested for forage on acres declared prevented plant for crop insurance purposes has recently been changed to Sept. 1 from Nov. 1. You should always contact your crop insurance representative to confirm rules for your policy. Cover crop seed is in high demand this season with short supplies of certain varieties. However, consider the quality of the seed before planting. Cover crop seed that has not been cleaned and processed could contain weed seeds that may introduce a new species to your farm.


Insect activity has been very sporadic. Alfalfa weevil has been active. Potato leafhopper has arrived in relatively small numbers. Be vigilant for true armyworm, as this pest may pop up in isolated locations. Out of the traps I monitor, catches of the migratory pest have remained light.

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